Friday, February 26, 2010

A Day on the Chesterfield

While in Newfoundland the spring flowers are peeking out of the soil, in New York City, we are blanketed under a thick layer of snow. This is our backyard this morning;

And there is more to come. I suspect we aren't going to that chess tournament this weekend upstate. As much as I love to see Lucy kick a little chess butt, I wouldn't mind a weekend at home. I'm trying not to be too gleeful at the prospect of going nowhere.

Perhaps it is the snowy weather, perhaps it was the television marathon that was our stay at Grammie's house in which we actually saw some of the Winter Olympics, but yesterday, Finn and Lucy set up a home curling rink. It is not elaborate but it serves the purpose:

Using great style, they slide an origami box with a stone inside it across the dining room floor, under the table and try to get close to the inner circle.

I may have developed a new and strange allergic reaction to maple syrup recently but don't let that fool you. We are seriously Canadian.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

City Room Blog

Let it never be said that I am the only person in our family worthy of ink on newsprint, or pixels on your monitor, for that matter.

Check out today's New York Times City Room blog for an article about a project recently completely by the long suffering husband.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hats and More, Plus, Etc.

The hat numbers continue to rise.

But first, I made a hat from that most beautiful yarn that Shawn at islandsweet spun up. Remember that one? Here, I will remind you:

I almost hated to knit it up because it was so lovely just as it was but I am glad I did. Every stitch was more fabulous than the next. It may be a sign of mental illness that I can get so excited about colour combinations as they move through the yarn but it sure makes for fun knitting. Anyway, here's the hat:

I had just enough yarn to finish it, with only the clippings from my weaving in left over. Sigh....perfection all around. Eventually, it will go in my etsy shop. I think. It does match my jacket so nicely.

Here is a hat made with one of the last House Study/Homemade. skeins. The colours were chosen and blended on the carder by Merrick (see post below). It was a nice large skein so I used my ever-evolving bonnet pattern. Sure looks cute on Lucy, who kindly agreed to serve as my model, despite having only just woken up and being in her pajamas.

This is one made by the amazing and talented Sono. Yes, that Sono, who made all the incredible animals and vehicles for the Lion Brand Studio window. She carded and spun the yarn in addition to knitting the hat.

There was definitely a colour scheme going last Saturday.

Nearly all the fleece I dyed was used up by the end of the day. I think I dyed almost 15 lbs of fleece for the project. I don't know why that gives me such a feeling of accomplishment, but it does.

And finally, I made this porcelain piece after coming back from Peterborough. I had made the shape before I left but painted it afterwards. I still need to knit a piece to go around the outside of it (so it sits in the center).

I am quite pleased with it - my blue wash skills have improved to the point where I am getting what I want, which is some Delftware kind of a look. Again, I don't know why it pleases me so much, but it does.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tell Me Your High Hopes

by Carl Sandburg

HATS, where do you belong?
what is under you?

On the rim of a skyscraper’s forehead
I looked down and saw: hats: fifty thousand hats:
Swarming with a noise of bees and sheep, cattle and waterfalls,
Stopping with a silence of sea grass, a silence of prairie corn.
Hats: tell me your high hopes.

It was a glorious day at Wave Hill yesterday - brilliant sunshine and a non-stop flow of people in and out of the studio. Many returning for one more day of fibre-y fun and many first timers.

This is Merrick, who is modeling her second hat. She thought she would just drop in for an hour or so several weeks ago. Such naivete, such innocence. She came back nearly every Saturday thereafter and is now working on her third hat. She especially loved carding and spent a lot of time making the most gorgeous batts imaginable.

This talented knitter came back several times as well, often with her daughter, who also knit a hat. The hat she has in her hand was her second, which she finished while sitting in the sunshine.

This is Janet, who is a regular volunteer at Wave Hill and was assigned to help me out on Saturdays. She was irreplaceable - a quick learner not afraid to jump right in. She not only taught people to card and spin but to knit. She often had a little group of new knitters in a corner where she would give advice and direction. Thank you so much Janet!

This lovely knitter also knit two hats. She is originally from France and definitely brought that je ne sais quoi to the project.

These next two pictures are of hats made by two women that I came to think of as "The Felting Ladies". This one was actually the third hat made by Teresa, an amazing felter who was so generous with her knowledge that she gave several inpromtu demonstrations. This hat was made from yarn she knit, then felted. Her two other hats were made from fleece she carded then felted. Each one, an object of beauty.

Teresa's friend and felting partner, Laura, is originally from Italy. She told me that she gave up on spinning after it took her 2.5 hours to spin 2 yards of yarn. Yarn that she immediately sent to her mother in Italy. If her hat was not quite as accomplished as Teresa's, it made up for it with its, well, good humour. We had lots of laughs together. Felters are fun!

And here is a blog post from Laurel over at Yarn Therapy about her experiences, along with a photo of her hat, which is pretty darn cute.

By the end of the day, we had 28 hats in hand and promises for many more. All will be installed at Wave Hill House on March 4th and will be on view until mid-April, when we do our hat exchange party.

Friday, February 19, 2010

C'mon and Zoom

The other evening, Dan and I were reminiscing about the television program called Zoom from back in the 1970s. Both of us dreamed of being a Zoom kid and could remember in startling detail specific aspects of the program. As we went on (and on) about it, it finally occurred to us that we could share the love with Finn and Lucy via YouTube.

Their response was lackluster to say the least. As we
clicked and watched more and more, they just kept casting
us looks as if to say, "THIS is what you liked??"
Ah, parents! Can't live with them, can't live without them.

I got a similar response when I was reacquainted
with my absolute favourite show, Free to Be You and Me. I was
so excited to share it with them but they were totally mystified.

As an aside, I have realized that these two shows have
completely shaped who I am as an adult and, even as an artist.
But this revisiting of the past was heightened as we drove
down Route 1 in Saugus this morning on our way home.

We drove past this:

The orange dinosaur! I excitedly pointed it out to Finn and Lucy, telling them that this used to give us huge kicks as kids when we would pass it on our way to visit our Aunt Lucy and Uncle Eddie in Malden.

Finn's response? "You must have had a very boring childhood if these sorts of things were considered a big deal and fun."


I would be full of "kids these days" thoughts were it not for the fact that, while at my mother's house, Finn and Lucy derived hours of fun, fun they described as "awesome" from wrapping a piece of cardboard in a garbage bag and using it as a sled on a tiny slope of a hill behind her house.

I think if they could just open their minds a little bit more, they would see the amazingness of Free to Be....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Greater BoxTop Metropolitan Area

We heading north for a short visit to Simmons and then a couple of days with my mother. I am looking forward to some quiet time, working on my crochet, watching HGTV, and maybe some thrift shopping for afghans for the Simmons project. I love it when an art project requires thrift shopping and the northshore (of MA) has some great ones, including the wonderfully named BoxTop Thrift Shop.

In the meantime, here are some photographs of a yarnbombing at the Art Gallery of Peterborough in honour of Knitting Sprawl.

PS. Saturday is the last chance to come to WH for House Study/Handmade!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Within the White

The snow today meant everything was layered in white. The air was very still so the snow stayed on the branches and became barely discernible against the white sky.

I was so lucky to have a reason to be able to experience this day at Wave Hill, which never looked lovelier.

A smaller-than-usual group of intrepid spinners came and brought colour into this whitest of days. We declared that the only thing missing was a fireplace next to which we could dry our skeins.

And after four hours of wooly fun, we went back into the wide, white world.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

House Study/Handmade: Wave Hill Blog

After another amazing Saturday, full of great conversation, beautiful colours and connections made over the experience of working with wool, I came home especially tired. It was a long day - I try to get there early on Saturdays to organize the space and get some skeins ready for what have become regular crowds. Then I stayed late so as to have some skeins ready for Tuesday and to re-organize the wool pile back into colours. I love that it gets completely messed up within minutes and I like putting it back to rights at the end of the afternoon. It feels very satisfying to see the pile diminish. There is just something so satisfying about doing all this work: the dyeing, the carding, the spinning, the soaking, the knitting (and crocheting and felting). Things get made and used in the most real, practical way. In a world that gets more and more virtual, the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of our labour right in front of us may be what is drawing people back week after week.

Today a woman came in right near the end expressing, as many have, that this was something she always wanted to learn more about. She very carefully made a batt on the drum carder, choosing specific colours that had meaning for her. Then I got her going on a spindle, which she picked up quite nicely. But time was running out so I promised to set aside her spindle and batt for next weekend. This is a promise I nearly never make because my motto has been "it's all community property" for this project but occasionally someone comes along and spends so much time, working really hard that I just can't insist that they toss their batt into the mix. She was very grateful and went to collect her things. Then she came back and asked to have a little piece of her batt to take home - just to look at and admire during the week.

We laughed as she pulled a piece off but I knew exactly what she meant. Sometimes you just need to let your eyes rest on a thing of beauty.

There is a lovely post up on the Wave Hill blog just now. It was written by Stephanie who has been my #1 assistant for this project. She had never done any this kind of thing before and now she uses the spindle and the wheel like a seasoned expert. Today she had her boyfriend spinning! Thanks, Stephanie, for writing such a nice piece. I am definitely going to miss our twice weekly spinning frolics!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Colour For Nothing

It's a fact that if you have do something every single week, you will get better at it.

Example #1:
This seemingly modest colour was made from the water left over from soaking black beans. My first attempt at this resulted in an even more modest silver colour, barely visible to the naked eye. This colour, which in comparison is nearly florescent, is quite lovely. The fact that I have dyed wool with this liquid and made any colour at all seems nothing short of a miracle.

Here we have some mohair dyed with onion skins. I know, I know, the old stand-by, but look at that colour! I would go so far to declare it nearly tangerine. And imagine, all from stuff that others might pour down the drain or toss in the compost or worse.

This is the onion skin dye on some naturally brown BFL fibre.

My indigo pot was acting up yesterday. I think I pushed the limits of my non-scientific dyeing technique and it finally pushed back. Nothing was really working, but I did get this lovely greyish blue mohair.

And the creme de la creme! An amazing green - of course it is incredibly difficult to photograph accurately but trust me on this one. Indigo and onion skins on mohair.

Also had some nice results with orange peels and banana peels, and coffee grounds. Why do we ever throw anything away?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Hats, They are A-Coming In

Despite the threat of mountains of snow (that never came), we still had a lot of visitors on Saturday. I started out feeling up to the task, with a nice stash of yarn at the ready.

It was quickly absorbed as people came and went.

Several came with their hats in hand,

while others arrived with their hats on their heads.

We have collected 15 so far, including three felted versions. Many people have returned with hats and collected more yarn for a second go-round. As Lucy said, after spending the day with me, this is fun!

Here are some more skeins (can you stand it?):

A rare plied skein. I needed a break from the single ply yarns but it is not really very time efficient to make plied yarns given the fact that most skeins are leaving still damp from setting the twist. But a spinner can not live on bulky art yarns alone and occasionally I need to spin thin, if you know what I mean.

This was a skein spun by a woman who had just learned to spin and was falling deep down the rabbit hole. We spent many a fine hour talking about wheels and drum carders. She also carded some gorgeous batts for me. She left for her home in L.A. with yarn, fleece and a promise to mail back the resulting hats.

This was a wild skein that is a mixture of grabbing into my pile of bits and pieces and some straight up white merino.

Some little guys that came off of spindles that people were working on...a little overspun but filled with good intentions.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Unconditional Yes: The Blog

The project at Simmons College has a new blog! Not a lot of content yet, but check back now and again and see what is happening.

To Boston and Back

The whirlwind trip to Boston was very fruitful. Although it is quite physically exhausting to fit a trip to Boston into one day, there is something kind of lovely about taking a long train ride, ending up in a new city for a day and boarding the train home in the evening. The hardest part is seeing our house flash by right near the end of the return trip and know it will take a good 45 minutes to an hour to retrace the steps to get back there. Surely Amtrak could make a quick stop in Sunnyside? No?

Ah well. Here are some the goodies I found in the archives at Simmons. I have no idea what my plan is with these items (I was only looking and taking pictures, although the staff of the archives seem willing to share for exhibition purposes).

The mandatory commemorative mug. I have some vague idea of recreating fake ceramic mugs and salt shakers and the like but to what end, I am not sure.

I learned that, up until the 1960s, each class would pick an animal mascot to represent their year. This led to some funny, kitschy knick knacks and stuffed animals in their collection. According to a little display in the archives, the tradition has been reinstated recently. This year's class mascot is a shark.

Another interesting item (it is a matchbook in case my photograph is too cryptic). I noticed a distinct change in how the women in the school viewed themselves when I looked through the yearbooks last time. Somewhere between the 1960 issue and the 1970 issue, not surprisingly, the tone changed from a jokey, ain't we got fun, self-depreciating tone to one a more enlightened, hear me roar tone. This is, obviously, pre-1970.

As is this.

This I found most curious not only for the somewhat cartoonish portrait but also for the writing - is that Thai? Very mysterious.

As I say, I really don't know what I will do with all this. I like the idea of playing with the whole notion of archives and presentation, especially since the library science program is one of the largest programs at Simmons.

I also met with an art administration class who will be my assistants through out the development of this project. They were so amazing - very engaged and enthusiastic. They had already thought of several ideas and were ready to take on the task of engaging others in it as well. Being in their early 20s, they have embraced facebook, blogs, twitter and other means of communication so I found myself ending my self-imposed FB vacation. All in the name of art, you understand. I can quit anytime I like. Really.

I am so pleased with how the project is shaping up. I feel like the quirky aspects of campus life at Simmons are perfectly suited my own quirky aspects. I think it is a good match.

Then, it was back to my little sunroom studio! Tuesdays tend to be the day when people return week after week so it has become a lovely group of dedicated spinners and knitters and a few new people coming for the first time. I have lost track of how many skeins have gone out - many people have taken more than one - but I think we will have about 30 or more hats in the end. All I know is that when I put skeins out on the table, they are always all gone by the end of the day. Likewise, my pile of fleece disappears and it is time to start dyeing again.

Here are a couple more skeins that I managed to document before they left. I am loving that deep cochineal red. Both skeins, indeed nearly all the skeins, are from batts carded by visitors. I have hardly touched the drum carder since the first session, except to demonstrate how to use it.